ODB++: PCB Design Transforming Ideas Into Products

This year, I witnessed an impressive natural event that I had never experienced before in all my life as a native Californian. The painted lady butterfly migration starts from the southeastern deserts of California heading northwest to Oregon, Washington, and further north into Alaska. While that distance covered by a butterfly with a wingspan of 2–3 inches is amazing, what was so impressive was the sheer number of them. This year’s migration represented one billion butterflies, all striving to survive the long journey north. Throughout California, one could simply step outside to witness the most elegant stream of butterflies, one after the other, for days on end.

What does a butterfly migration have to do with transferring intelligent PCB data from design through the manufacturing process? The process of transforming from an earthbound caterpillar into a beautiful flying butterfly where each has a unique wing pattern is not much different than transforming an idea for a product into a schematic, and through hard work, into a unique PCB design. The difference is that nature has created a perfectly connected process, but we still are challenged doing our same process repeatedly with positive results. In the case of a PCB design, the transfer of the design intent and the manufacturing process needs are not yet connected in unison.

A graphic using butterflies imprinted with PCBs

The ODB format originated with the objective of delivering on this need. The format was originally introduced for use by PCB fabricators, eliminating the need for a collection of CAM files in multiple formats—such as Gerber, Excellon, IPC-356, or even IPC-350, which was an early attempt to simplify this process. The key to the success of ODB was that it obtained industry acceptance. There was a friendly, informal group working together as early adopters put aside their previous thinking in the hopes of achieving a quick transformation from an effective product model into a deliverable PCB with the minimal amount of data manipulation possible, and in an effective, repeatable, and reliable manner.

Written by Max Clark, To read this entire article, which appeared in the September 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.